Girls & SEX: Peggy Orenstein's Personal Book & Media Recommendations For All Ages

People came from all over the Bay Area on Sunday, March 19 to the Mill Valley Public Library to hear Peggy Orenstein discuss her latest New York Times Bestseller Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. Nearly 60 people, including moms, dads, grandparents and teens crowded into the standing room only event to hear nuggets of wisdom from Peggy Orenstein, including such things as “sexy” is a performance not a gesture of love and kids should be aware of the difference; and a recent study in Holland shows a broader understanding of sex in terms of trust, boundaries, consent and reduced underage pregnancies as well as a more pleasurable experience for female Dutch teens than their U.S. counterparts. How do the Dutch accomplish this?

Peggy also talks of Women’s Studies and Psychology Professor Sara McClelland’s concept of “intimate justice,” the idea that sex has political as well as personal meaning. Peggy’s presentation was sponsored by the Write on Mamas in collaboration with the Mill Valley Public Library. Write on Mamas is a 501 c 3 organization dedicated to providing access, knowledge, and support for parents who write.

Here is a list of Peggy Orenstein's personal book and media recommendations for every age:


For parents of kids of all ages: Talk to Me First. By Deborah Roffman

We live in a time when kids of all ages are bombarded with age-sensitive material wherever they turn; "sexting" and bullying are on the rise at an increasingly younger age, and teen moms are "celebrified." What is a concerned--and embarrassed--parent to do? With wit, wisdom, and savvy, Deborah Roffman translates her experiences gleaned from decades of teaching kids and parents, and as a mom, into strategies to help parents navigate this tricky terrain. Talk to Me First is for any parent who wants to become and remain the most credible and influential resource about sexuality in their children's lives.

For parents of kids 0-13: From Diapers to Dating by Debra Haffner

Approved by Parents' Choice 1999, praised in Time, Newsweek, and Library Journal-a leading sexuality educator's warm, practical, step-by-step program for helping parents provide accurate information and communicate their own values to their children. Haffner's values-oriented approach to raising sexually healthy children is informative and comforting. Organized from birth through age twelve, her acclaimed book offers a wealth of practical techniques to help parents identify and communicate their own values about sexuality to their children, while also suggesting to parents the appropriate information to give to children of different ages.

For parents of teensFor Goodness Sex by Al Vernacchio, who came up with the pizza metaphor

A progressive, effective, and responsible approach to sex education for parents and teens that challenges traditional teaching models and instead embraces 21st century realities by promoting healthy sexuality, values, and body image in young people.


Any of the books by Robie Harris: It's Not the Stork (ages preschool-3rd grade); It's So Amazing (kindergarten-4th grade) and It's Perfectly Normal (1st grade and up). They are fabulous resources for the basics about reproduction, healthy relationships, sexuality, anatomy etc. 

GRADES 5th-7th

There’s a great new online resource called AMAZEAMAZE takes the awkward out of sex ed. Real info in fun, animated videos that give you all the answers you actually want to know about sex, your body and relationships.


Dating Smarts: What Every Teen Needs To Know To Date, Relate Or Wait by Amy Lang

Dating. Relationships. Sex. Is there any part of life you find more confusing? Your parents and the other adults in your life probably try to talk to you about all this but fall far short of being truly helpful. Honestly, they are just as baffled and confused as you are about this part of life and this is one of many reasons they do such terrible job of talking to you about it. Dating Smarts tells teens just like you the truth about dating, relationships and sex and gives you practical, real-world tips and support so you can be a kick-ass boyfriend or girlfriend.


The book S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties by Heather Corinna

As a teen or emerging adult, dealing with all the changes going on in your life, body, and mind can be mighty overwhelming. When it comes to sex, everyone seems to have strong feelings and opinions about who you should be and what you should (shouldn't) do. How do you decide who to listen to? Heather Corinna and Scarleteen have provided sex education and information to millions of young people, parents, and mentors since 1998; S.E.X tackles all the big topics


HeatherCorinna is the producer of the equally excellent resource, the web site Scarleteen. Progressive, feminist and friendly sex education and information for teens and young adults!, Sex education by teens, for teens. Info on birth control, condoms, HIV/AIDS & STDs, pregnancy and more. Sex, Etc. is published by Answer.

Go Ask Alice, Alice! is not one person, but a team. The Go Ask Alice! site is supported by a team of Columbia University health promotion specialists, health care providers, and other health professionals, along with a staff of information and research specialists and writers. Our team members have advanced degrees in public health, health education, medicine, counseling, and a number of other relevant fields.

Laci Green's videos on YoutubeEntertain, educate, and connect internationally with Sex Plus viewers. Promote a comprehensive model of sex education using technology. Provide a feminist framework for sex education and discourse. Improve accuracy and inclusivity of sex education online and off. Facilitate productive conversations about Sex Plus topics.


 These are pretty simplistic videos, but gets the conversation started.

Adults and perhaps high school/college girls themselves may also get a lot out of the book Come As You Are: The New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski.

It's the best book I've read exploring the multi-disciplinary science of female sexuality. An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy.

For a quick intro to some of its wisdom, check out the author's TED Talk.

For those looking for curricula:

Population Council's It's All One a free, human-rights based curriculum for high school students.

Education on sexuality and HIV can help adolescents develop the capacity for healthy, respectful relationships and protect themselves from unwanted and unsafe sex, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.

Our Whole Lives from the Unitarian/Universalist church, which offers curricula for ages 5-68 (and training for leaders). It is available low-cost from the church web site. 

Media literacy/Body image resources that engage with girls:

The web sites--About Face, Powered By Girl and Spark Movement are great starting points. For those in the Bay Area, About-Face does workshops and programs for girls in both community groups and schools. 

Girls ages 12+ may like reading my previous book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein

The rise of the girlie-girl, warns Peggy Orenstein, is no innocent phenomenon. Following her acclaimed books FluxSchoolgirls, and the provocative New York Times bestseller Waiting for Daisy, Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter offers a radical, timely wake-up call for parents, revealing the dark side of a pretty and pink culture confronting girls at every turn as they grow into adults.

One of my favorite books ever that takes the long view of girls and body image in America for interested adults and older teens is Joan Jacobs Brumberg's, The Body Project.

A hundred years ago, women were lacing themselves into corsets and teaching their daughters to do the same. The ideal of the day, however, was inner beauty: a focus on good deeds and a pure heart. Today American women have more social choices and personal freedom than ever before. But fifty-three percent of our girls are dissatisfied with their bodies by the age of thirteen, and many begin a pattern of weight obsession and dieting as early as eight or nine. Why?

Peggy Orenstein is the author of The New York Times best-sellers Girls & SexCinderella Ate My Daughter and Waiting for Daisy as well as Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World and the classic SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap. A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, Peggy has also written for such publications as The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Vogue, Timeand The New Yorker, and has contributed commentaries to NPR’s All Things Considered and the PBS Newshour.

Forward written by Laurel Hilton, President of Write on Mamas, a 501 c 3 organization dedicated to providing access, knowledge, and support for parents who write.